(Reuters) - A pro-military party was leading in Thailand’s first election since a 2014 coup، with the unofficial result delayed until Monday afternoon likely to indicate whether junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha can gain enough seats to remain prime minister.
The Election Commission had been scheduled to announce the unofficial results Sunday night for the 500-seat lower House of Representatives but later said it was delayed until Monday، without giving a reason.
But with Prayuth’s Palang Pracharat party all but guaranteed the support of the junta-appointed upper house، the Senate، under new electoral rules the junta drafted، it looked in a good position to keep Prayuth in office five years after he overthrew an elected government.
With 93 percent of overall votes counted، the Election Commission reported Palang Pracharat was leading with 7.64 million votes.
Trailing with 7.16 million votes was Pheu Thai، a party linked to the self-exiled ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra، whose loyalists have won every election since 2001.
Palang Pracharat leader Uttama Savanayana cautioned the final results were not yet in but he seemed confident.
“We are pleased،” Uttama said. “As for discussion with other parties about forming the next government، we haven’t got to that stage yet.”
The numbers released were for the popular vote، but these did not reflect parliamentary constituency seats that would ultimately be won. Pheu Thai could still win the lion’s share of these because of its concentrated popularity in the north and northeast of the country.
Pheu Thai was on track to win at least 129 seats and Palang Pracharat at least 102 seats، based on a Reuters tally of the partial results of the 350 constituency seats contested.
Another 150 “party seats” will be allocated under a complex formula that favors smaller parties and is based on the total number of votes cast.
The strong showing by the pro-junta Palang Pracharat prompted dismay among many voters who had hoped that the poll would loosen the grip on power that traditional elites and the military have held in a country that has one of the highest measures of inequality in the world.
The Election Commission chairman said turnout was 66 percent، based on 90 percent of the vote counted.
At Pheu Thai’s headquarters in Bangkok، the mood fluctuated from cheerful to quiet disbelief.
“I didn’t think this is likely. I don’t think this is what the people wanted،” said Pheu Thai supporter Polnotcha Chakphet.
Pheu Thai leader Viroj Pao-in told reporters there had been some reports of vote-buying، though he stopped short of questioning the overall results.